Following this year’s NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts filled a number of roster holes with ten draft selections—both now and for the future.
However, there are still a number of positions where the Colts could still look to find a long-term solution.
It doesn’t mean the franchise is in a dire state regarding these positions, but at the same time, it may not be a bad idea for the Colts to contemplate a contingency plan going forward, either.
The Colts pass rush should be much improved with the addition of Justin Houston—who had 10.0 sacks last season for the Chiefs defense.
Still, the 30 year old is more of a short-term answer than long-term fixture at the position—having signed a 2-year deal with Indianapolis this offseason.
The Colts other top edge defender, Jabaal Sheard, also just turned 30.
There’s some room for youthful optimism, as 2nd-year pro, Kemoko Turay, could be poised for a breakout season. One of this year’s 2nd round picks, rookie Ben Banogu, could also get some looks along the edge in his ‘hybrid’ linebacker role.
However, the Colts still lack that cornerstone, alpha dog pass rusher in his prime that they once had two of (shockingly)—Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, during their “glory days”.
Perhaps Turay could become one in time, but the Colts could always look to add a blue chip pass rushing prospect into the fold at any time.
This isn’t a knock on Anthony Castonzo at all, as the former 2011 first round pick remains a very good starting left tackle in the NFL. Castonzo started 11 games for the Colts last season, and upon his return in Week 6, the Indy offensive line elevated its play and protection collectively, instantly becoming one of the league’s best units.
However, Castonzo turns 31 years old in August, and is in the last year of his contract with a $11.05M cap hit due this season. I imagine Colts general manager Chris Ballard will want to bring Castonzo back—albeit on a short-term deal. To his credit, Castonzo looks like he still has at least 2 productive years of football left in him.
Nevertheless, the Colts could begin kicking the tires on his long-term successor as soon as next offseason. It may be a prudent idea to draft a top left tackle prospect early on and allow him to develop behind the veteran for a season or two before Castonzo permanently hands over the reins.
The Colts may have had a tough decision to make with the 26th overall selection had either Clemson’s Christian Wilkins miraculously slid or even Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons.
Instead, both were long gone and the Colts traded down with Washington.
As it stands, the Colts have quality short-term depth at defensive tackle this season.
However, Margus Hunt turns 32 in July, and Denico Autry turns 29 in the same month.
The Colts also have promising 2nd-year pro Tyquan Lewis (who’s expected to kick inside more at defensive tackle with the addition of veteran pass rusher Justin Houston), as well as some other intriguing young defensive tackles such as Grover Stewart and Jihad Ward.
That being said, for what the team’s defensive tackle position has in solid veteran production and youthful upside, it could use more dynamic playmakers along the interior.
The Colts don’t necessarily have that “game-wrecker”, a guy that opposing teams have to consistently game plan for, or double team against in the interior on Sundays (although Autry, as a Pro Bowl alternate, played very well last season).
Perhaps next offseason that could change that for the Colts.
Hear me out. Tight end could very well be the Colts strongest position group next season with two Pro Bowl caliber tight ends, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, as well as impressive depth with Mo Alie-Cox and Ross Travis.
It could also be a position that a year from now sees a lot of change.
Ebron scored a whopping 15 touchdowns last season and is a free agent after the 2019 season. I think the Colts have every intention of re-signing Ebron right now, but if he wants to be paid like Gronk (retired) or Travis Kelce, Indy could balk at the potential price tag.
Ebron showed off his athleticism, speed, and coordination on many of his touchdowns last year. However, he also had a few wide open looks that were simply a byproduct of excellent offensive scheming and play-calling by Frank Reich and his coaching staff to free him up.
If he has another highly productive season, he deserves to be fairly compensated for it, but I’m just not sure that Ebron should be ranked among the game’s truly elite tight ends just yet.
On the other hand, another former Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle only appeared in 6 games last year and is a free agent at season’s end. My expectation is that Doyle will be healthy and have a very productive season for the Colts next year—with Ballard inclined to bring him back on a new team-friendly deal.
However, if he has another injury plagued season, it’s not out of the question that the Colts could let him walk—yes, even as productive and beloved of a player as Jack Doyle.
If either Ebron or Doyle surprisingly end up out of the picture after 2019, the Colts could be poised to select another tight end early in next year’s draft.
Don’t expect it, but don’t be completely shocked either.
The ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri is 46 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down. Seriously, he ages like a fine wine. At this point in time, Vinatieri might kick until he’s 50 (and I’m only half-kidding).
Vinatieri converted 23 of 27 field goals last season (85.2%)—having battled through a groin injury. He also made 44 of his 47 extra point attempts (93.6%).
Still, father time remains undefeated, and Vinatieri is essentially playing on a year-to-year basis with the Colts. He could hang them up as soon as year’s end, as no one really knows for sure—maybe not even Vinatieri at this point.
Already the league’s all-time leading scorer, Vinatieri is simply padding his Hall of Fame resume and presumably playing for one more shot at a Super Bowl championship (which he has four of) with the Colts.
It’s not a position that the Colts should actively be seeking a replacement for, but if there’s a blue chip kicking prospect like, say, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was in 2006 coming out into the NFL Draft, it may not be a bad idea to heavily consider them.
(Although both Vinatieri and even the Baltimore Ravens Justin Tucker were undrafted free agents, so who knows on that theory).
Vinatieri’s leadership and consistent production can’t be understated, but then again, the end comes for everyone—and the Colts have to be prepared for a kicking life after him.
No, Andrew Luck isn’t going anywhere, and Colts fans can safely pencil him in as the starting quarterback for the better part of the next decade.
However, his backup Jacoby Brissett is set to become a free agent at season’s end, and I’m guessing will be looking to find a new home where he can at least compete for a starting quarterback job (which won’t happen in Indy).
The 26 year old Brissett is one of the top backups in the NFL, and he could honestly be the starting quarterback for at least a few teams in the NFL based on his ability and arm.
This isn’t a dire Colts need, but given how valuable the quarterback position is, it could be savvy for the Colts to at least spend a mid-round pick next year on a young quarterback to develop for the next few seasons as Luck’s backup.
If an NFL team doesn’t have a capable starting quarterback behind center, they’re generally toast on a week-to-week basis. With Luck’s history of injuries, a long-term quality backup seems like a worthwhile investment for the franchise (and something that the Colts could even flip for draft capital down the road—should they properly develop).